The Columns

Why W&L Law: 1L Rennie Laryea Goes Beyond the Numbers

— by on November 4th, 2014

We asked several of our 1L students to discuss their decision to attend W&L Law. Next up is Rennie Laryea, a graduate of Agnes Scott College from Atlanta.

As cheesy as it may sound, I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer. At age 8, I was the unaccompanied minor who sternly demanded the airline staff call my father to confirm my final destination. As it turned out, internal miscommunication had prevented my boarding of the connecting flight. My family knew then that I would be following the footsteps of my great-aunt and uncle who had their own practice. In the years that followed, my passions did not seem to align with the legal profession. At Agnes Scott College, I majored in International Relations and French. The two subjects were applied working first in logistics, and then as a high school teacher and program coordinator.

Teaching or having any kind of full-time job while preparing for law school is quite challenging (Kudos to anyone currently enduring both). Thus for one, I knew I could only apply to small selection of schools. Also, getting time off during the academic year would be unlikely so visiting schools was not in the cards. Nevertheless, I created a school list based on certain criterion leaving the actual location of a school as the last factor only to be used for elimination purposes. The conditions were as follows:

Rankings: Of course rankings are not the only thing to consider with in a law school yet they are indicative of a school’s reputation. I studied each school’s ranking within a four year period. What was the general trend? A steady, high ranking meant the school was known and respected amongst legal professionals. That would translate into jobs which is the whole point of Law School.

Small class size: As my background was not in prelaw, my 1L year would be spent flailing around trying to figure out what was going on. Did the school have small classes were students could ask ‘stupid’ questions, make mistakes and engage with their professors? The right school would have small classes and some form of transitions program to help people like me, who had never briefed cases and could not tell the difference between a dissent and a concurring opinion.

Contact and Availability: There is nothing more difficult than waiting to hear from an organization or in this case a school. As a visit was not possible, I needed an admissions process structured to give me maximum contact with staff such that all my questions could be answered. Understandably, some programs would be too large to help me one-on-one.

W&L stood out on all three factors. In rankings, the general trend showed this was a top notch law school by all standards. I looked up some alumni online and saw accomplishments in various sectors of the legal industry. Second, the school had a low student-faculty ratio meaning professors were accessible outside of class and classes were a comfortable size. There was also the Burks Scholar program that taught the foundations of legal writing and research. But on the last factor, W&L outshined every school on my list. My application was fairly late in the admissions cycle which made following-up critical. The Office of Admissions made every effort to communicate when anything was delayed. They truly showed that exceptions could be made when considered on a case-to-case basis and coordinated my late visit. An alumna from a similar background contacted me making herself available for questions while a 1L who happened to be in town had lunch with me. The lunch took place at a bakery recommended by the Dean who even suggested a side. At this point, it was obvious students were more than numbers here and this was the right choice.

My experience so far has been incredible. Some of my classmates came straight from college and others like me worked for a few years before coming to law school. Even amongst those with work experience, there is diversity. There are some paralegals of course, but there are also teachers, people with real-estate backgrounds, nurses and political staffers. W&L law’s challenging program has humbled us on several occasions but we are collectively learning how to think like lawyers. In the end, no matter our strengths none of us has been to law school before and the first-year curriculum is equipping all. Help comes readily from the 2Ls and 3Ls with several campus organizations providing outline banks of notes from previous years.

The law student’s weekend typically looks no different from his or her weekday- filled with reading assignments and class preparation. But Lexington is a gem with her quirky stores and restaurants, and there is a lot to do in the surrounding areas. The beauty of living here lies in the low cost of living and open and warm environment. People go out of their way to help when you mention you are at the law school. That openness is at the core of W&L because ethical behavior is expected and enforced by our student-run Honor System.

Several areas of practice seem lucrative to me now, and I will have to make a selection soon. Yet the task is less daunting because this is a school with seasoned professors coming from a wide range of backgrounds. W&L law embraces the notion that legal training goes beyond the classroom and I am confident that the decision to come here will pay off.

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